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How Daily Meditation Can Make You a Better Programmer

Joel Lee 10-06-2016

If you clicked on this article with skepticism, I don’t blame you. Meditation is seen by many as hocus-pocus nonsense that’s only one step above the placebo effect. It’s also easily conflated with religion and mysticism.


None of the above is true.

Secular meditation, sometimes called mindfulness, is a growing trend in the programming industry because it offers real results without any of the spiritual packaging. It’s hard to measure empirically, of course, but anecdotes and testimonies abound.

Still a skeptic? That’s fine. I just ask that you read this with an open mind. Give it a few tries if you dare. You might find that it turns you into a better programmer as it has done so for many others already.

Why Programming Is So Stressful

“I don’t need meditation in my life.” That’s what a lot of people think when they hear about mindfulness — and some of them might be right.

But here are some of the ways that programming might be impacting YOU negatively, in ways you maybe didn’t expect.


It’s difficult. Learning how to master a new programming language 7 Useful Tricks for Mastering a New Programming Language It's okay to be overwhelmed when you are learning to code. You'll probably forget things as quickly as you learn them. These tips can help you to better retain all that new information. Read More is relatively straightforward. All you need are a few well-designed coding tutorials What Makes a Good Programming Tutorial? Not all programming tutorials are made equal. Some benefit you and others end up wasting your time. Here's what to look for in a quality programming tutorial. Read More and enough time to let it all sink in. But using that language to create and maintain software? That’s the hard part.

Unless you’re writing a one-off script or a tiny helper utility, software development can be overwhelming. So many features to add, so many bugs to fix. It’s easy to feel out of your element, and when that happens, your mind can really suffer.


It’s monotonous. The act of programming is far from exciting. Sure, every once in a while you manage to solve and patch an evasive bug, and it can be satisfying when you figure out how to implement something new, but those moments are few and far between.


For the most part, programming is boring. It might take a day to plan out a new class but a week or a month to bring it to life. It’s monotony, day in and day out, and that can weigh down on you more than you’d think.

It’s long-term. Not only is programming boring on a day-to-day basis, but each project is a long-term affair. There’s very little instant gratification in a big programming project, and that can be frustrating — so much so that it could even lead to mental burnout Programming Burnout: How to Regain Your Lost Motivation Feeling tired of programming? Suffering burnout and can't see a way out? Here's how to begin regaining your motivation to code. Read More .

The monotony of programming can feel like a series of back-to-back marathons without much rest in between, and even though you might think it doesn’t affect you, it builds up… and one day it will catch up to you if you aren’t careful.



It’s creative. A lot of people assume programming is all about logic and syntax — and that’s absolutely true to an extent — but there’s a lot of creativity involved as well. Is programming art? Maybe, maybe not, but I’ve certainly seen a lot of artful code.

No matter what kind of project you pursue 5 Project Ideas To Help You Learn Programming Faster There are a few ways to ease the learning curve for programming. Get your hands dirty and learn faster with side projects you can start anytime. Play around with these five. Read More , part of your job is to design and architect every line of code, every class, and every algorithm that you write. This creativity is awesome when it flows naturally. It can lead to anxiety when it doesn’t.

It’s sedentary. Day after day, you’re stuck in an office chair in front of your computer, typing away, line after line, for up to 10 hours per day and very few breaks in between. There’s a very good chance that this is having a negative impact on your physical health 5 Reasons Working With Computers Is Bad For You & How to Stay Healthy Working on the computer may sound like the most relaxed job in the world, but it's quite the contrary. It's very tough on your body, which is not used to this modern type of work.... Read More .

But it’s also bad for your mental health. You get very little sun exposure. You’re cooped up indoors for hours at a time. You’re likely withdrawn from socialization and have few genuine face-to-face interactions. This could all lead to seasonal depression The 5 Best Sunlight Lamps for Winter Depression and Light Therapy If your depression only occurs in the winter months, it's likely seasonal and may be treatable with a sunlight lamp. Read More and clinical depression 5 Ways Technology Might Be Feeding Your Depression Technology can worsen depression. With tech enveloping our lives, we should be more aware of technology's potential impact on us. There are some things you can do to lessen the burden. Read More .


5 Ways Meditation Can Help You

Is meditation the be-all-end-all solution to all of your problems? Absolutely not. I don’t want to overhype its significance, but at the same time, it’s very likely that a bit of serious meditation can help.

1. You’ll be less anxious. Meditation can help you regain composure and confidence, which can help relieve uncertainty, panic, and anxiety. This can be hugely helpful for beginner and intermediate programmers, who are easily overwhelmed and suffer from stress How to Learn Programming Without All the Stress Maybe you've decided to pursue programming, whether for a career or just as a hobby. Great! But maybe you're starting to feel overwhelmed. Not so great. Here's help to ease your journey. Read More .

2. You’ll increase focus and productivity. Meditation can help you center your mind on what you need to do, which can help to eliminate distractions. It can also improve your mental energy and cognitive functions, making it useful for programmers of older age 3 Myth-Busting Reasons to Start Coding Even at an Older Age Have ever wondered if you're "too old" to start learning how to program, the simple answer is that anyone can pick it up. The real question is, should you give it a shot? Read More .

3. You’ll have more mental discipline. Meditation is one way to clear out your mind and relieve some of the stress that weighs you down. Those periods of relief, no matter how brief they are, are invaluable.


Less mental fatigue means being able to think more clearly, having more emotional stability, and greater willpower. This has to be built up over time, of course, but once you reach that point, it becomes much easier to endure long-term projects and not give up How to Stay Motivated on Long-Term Projects and Not Give Up If motivation was easy to cultivate, nobody would have any problems doing so! For those who lose motivation over long term projects, these tips may prove fruitful. Read More .

4. You’ll learn more about yourself. When you’re constantly distracted, you don’t have time for self-reflection. Meditation can open up your mind and help you discover some of the deeper aspects of yourself, such as what you really want to do with your life.

For example, it can help you be more decisive about a project’s direction How to Be More Decisive and Get More Done Decision making is stressful. It is also a skill which allows you to get better with practice. You should find it easier to make the right decisions with some of the tips outlined here. Read More . Or maybe it can help you figure out that programming is not the career path for you 6 Signs That You Are Not Meant to Be a Programmer Not everyone is cut out to be a programmer. If you aren't completely sure that you're meant to be a programmer, here are some signs that may point you in the right direction. Read More and that you’d be better off pursuing another tech-related career Coding Isn't for Everyone: 9 Tech Jobs You Can Get Without It Don't be discouraged if you want to be a part of the tech field. There are plenty of jobs for people without coding skills! Read More .

5. You’ll feel better. As you unload some of your stress and learn more about yourself, that will start spilling over in physical ways. For example, you might be more aware of your diet, your need to exercise, and how to fix your posture This 3-Minute Exercise Will Actually Fix Your Posture You may think bad posture can't be fixed, but this quick and easy exercise will change your mind. Read More . But mainly, you’ll be happier.

How to Meditate (With Helpful Apps)

The general idea is simple enough: get comfortable, eliminate distractions, focus on relaxed breathing, and keep yourself fully in the present for at least 10 minutes. The key is to take deliberate control over your thoughts. It’s an exercise.

And it doesn’t have to be with eyes closed and sitting on the ground. You can practice mindfulness while walking through a park, brushing your teeth, or sitting in the break room. But most people do prefer the “quiet and serene” kind of meditation.

Here are a few apps that might help you get started.

Stop, Breathe, and Think


Stop, Breathe, and Think is one of the best apps for mindful meditation 6 Mindful Meditation Apps That Will Improve Your Life Living a more mindful live through meditation can have amazing positive effects. Give it a try with these apps. Read More . It starts by asking you how you feel right now and how you’d describe your current mood, and then gives you a few contextual meditations that might help.

So instead of just emptying your thoughts and anxieties, it could actually help you develop your gratitude and joy, for example. Very useful if you’ve never meditated before and have no idea where to begin.

Available on Android, iOS, and the web.

Download Now: Stop, Breathe, and Think (Free)



Calm is extremely useful for clearing and destressing your mind The 12 Best Calming Apps to Relax, Destress, and Clear Your Mind Here are the best relaxation apps to help you meditate and stay calm when life becomes too stressful. Read More . It has options for timed meditations and open-ended meditations, all of which are coupled with calming video/audio loops of nature, the ocean, night time, etc.

It’s free to use and comes with a seven-step guide for how to practice mindfulness, but if you subscribe ($10 per month or $40 per year), you can unlock over 50 different guided meditations that are simply great.

Available on Android, iOS, and the web.

Download Now: Calm (Free)

White Noise


If you don’t like guided meditations, then you might be better off with White Noise. It comes with dozens of audio loops like rain, campfire, vacuum, jungle, heartbeat, and even literal white noise. Or you can record your own loops.

Combine these sounds with the timer feature and you have the perfect tool to use as a backdrop for your personal meditations. It’s really as simple as that. Upgrade to the Full version to remove ads or the Pro version for even more sounds.

Available on Android, iOS, the web, and others.

Download Now: White Noise (Free)

Try Some Meditation Now

If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still skeptical, then that’s fine. Thanks for at least being open-minded and reading through the post. If you’re happy with where you are, then it’s possible that you don’t need meditation.

But if you find yourself overwhelmed by the mental and emotional aspects of programming, meditation can be an effective way to overcome some of those hurdles. If that’s you, give it a try for a week or so. What’s the worst that could happen?

What’s your worst mental obstacle when programming? Do you have any tips, tricks, or rituals that help you get through the tougher days of coding? Has meditation helped? We’d love to hear in the comments below!

Image Credits: working with laptop by Dima Sidelnikov via Shutterstock, Night Programmer via Shutterstock, Macbook via Shutterstock, Beach Programmer via Shutterstock

Related topics: Mental Health, Programming, Stress Management.

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  1. Colleen
    March 6, 2017 at 4:03 am

    Thank you this helps us me have more insight into the challenges of programmers! We started mindfulness at our small soft ware Dev company and we take 15 min twice a week with some stretches for the tight muscles from all the screen time. It's been well received, although there are those in the team who see it as fluffy -but each to their own !

  2. Anonymous
    June 10, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    I dont think mobile app or web services will help u instead it will create a disturbing connection between person and device.
    Do meditation naturally with a piece of ear jack.

    • Joel Lee
      June 14, 2016 at 3:47 am

      True, if you aren't careful the app can be a big distraction!

  3. MrX
    June 10, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    You need to get a new job if that is how you feel about programming.

    • Anonymous
      June 11, 2016 at 8:06 am

      With downsizing of the human resources pool, workloads on employees increase as does the concomitant stress. While some jobs are more stressful than others, I think it is fair to say virtually all jobs have stress associated. Therefore, just getting a new job is not resolving the problem, but just trying to run away from it. Self-delusion.

      • Joel Lee
        June 14, 2016 at 3:46 am

        Thanks, Peter! Nailed it. Like most jobs, programming is stressful even if you enjoy it. Some people are more prone to stress than others as well. In those cases, meditation can be a more practical solution than hunting down another job.